Tag Archives: Forgive

Mad Is Easier than Sad

As we enter the Lenten season, and I ponder the sins I struggle with, a thought occurred to me that encapsulates my struggle: mad is easier than sad.

In other words, when someone hurts me and I feel sad, it is easier to decide to be angry or mad about what they have done than to feel sadness. If I decide to be mad, then I can cling to the illusion of control that is absent in the midst of sadness.

But the control I feel really is only an illusion. When I choose anger instead of sadness, I have given over control to the devil because it is the devil who wants to see me angry and unforgiving.

As I opened my Bible to our scripture readings for the Ash Wednesday service last Wednesday, my eye fell upon a passage that preceded our reading. We were reading from Matthew 6, but my eye was drawn to these words of Jesus:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV).

This is not the only place in scripture where we hear Jesus telling us to not be angry. In fact, He says that if we do not let go of our anger and forgive others then we will not be forgiven. See Matthew 6:15. He also tells the wonderful parable of the unmerciful servant who is forgiven a huge debt by his master, but then refuses to forgive his fellow servant’s debt owed to him. Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV).

It is clear from scripture that as easy as being mad may be, it is not what our Lord wants for us or from us. Anger and unforgiveness are serious sins that need to be repented of. I must turn to God and ask His help in overcoming this sin.

As I thought about how much easier it is to be mad than to be sad, it occurred to me that the latter is not a sin. Nowhere in scripture (that I am aware of) does God tell us not to be sad and to turn from our sadness. In fact, in the beatitudes Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NIV). In Romans 12:15, Paul tells us to “mourn with those who mourn.” Mourning and sadness are not a sin, but an acceptable response when we encounter trials and tribulation. Even “Jesus wept” and mourned. John 11:35 (NIV).

During this season of Lent, my goal is to turn to God and turn away from the sin of anger; to seek His help in being more forgiving. I want to not take the easier path, but to take up my cross and follow Christ.

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The Grudge – A Poem

Over the past week or so I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Corinthians 13:5 – love “keeps no record of wrongs.” For Thankful Thursday, I’m thankful that God loves us so much that He keeps no record of our wrongs. I am also thankful that He gives us the help of the Spirit so that we can forgive like He does.

The Grudge

When you hold a grudge
you make yourself judge,
jury, and executioner

When you hold a grudge
heed the Spirit’s nudge
to expunge the record

When you drop a grudge
and hard feelings budge
then love sets you free

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Good Advice Not Followed – My Tuesday Three

A quote from Alice in Wonderland came to mind yesterday, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. I decided to check the accuracy of my quote, and discovered that the way I remembered it must have been from a cartoon or movie. Here is how the quote appears in the original book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, chapter 1:

‘Come, there’s no use in crying like that!’ said Alice to herself, rather sharply; ‘I advise you to leave off this minute!’ She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it). . .

The more this quote kept coming to mind as “I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it,” I wondered why I couldn’t let it got and decided there must be a blog post in it somewhere.

That is when I realized that I have not been following my own good advice lately, and I have been feeling a bit blue as a result. I decided that for My Tuesday Three I would share three pieces of advice that I have given to myself and to my blog readers, but that I have not been following of late.

I suppose this post is really more for me than for all of you, to get me back on track and perhaps following my advice (which is really Jesus’ advice). But perhaps it will help someone else to see how good advice not followed is no use at all. It certainly got Alice into trouble, and so let this be a reminder to us all to follow good advice lest we get lost down a rabbit hole full of totally nutty creatures.

The first piece of advice that I have not been following is to regularly read and memorize scripture. Of course, I have my favorites that are memorized, and I at least read a Psalm every week when I post one for Psalm Sunday. But I am way behind in my Bible-in-a-year schedule. I know I should set aside at least 15 to 30 minutes a day to read my Bible, but I get distracted by other things and it is hard to find a quiet place to read. I try to read when I crawl in bed at night, but my eyes get droopy and I don’t get very far. Besides, that kind of reading isn’t very conducive to really meditating on and soaking in scripture.

The second piece of advice that I have not been following is to forgive others, especially the little everyday annoyances. Various people have been annoying me lately (I won’t name any names), and I’ve been hanging onto that annoyance instead of forgiving and letting it go. I’m familiar with Jesus’ teaching on dealing with a fellow Christian who has sinned against you and the parable of the unmerciful servant. See Matthew 18:15-35 (NIV). But I haven’t always been doing as Jesus commanded. I know holding a grudge is what fueled my major depression, and is probably what is making me feel blue lately.

The third piece of advice that I have not been following is to listen to the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26 (NIV). I’ve been hearing His voice lately, reminding me to spend more time in scripture, to forgive, to not be anxious about things, and to put on the whole armor of God. But I haven’t been heeding His voice. I’ve sort of been saying, “Yeah, yeah, I know,” in that tone you usually only get from teenagers and hate to hear.

On the positive side, however, I have maintained my regular prayer time, and that connection with God is the thing that has been keeping my head above water. If only I would follow my own good advice on these other habits, I’d be walking on water – just like Peter.

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Learning to Forgive – A Poem

Many years ago the Lord taught me the importance of forgiving others. The command to forgive as we have been forgiven is not meant to be a burden, but rather a means of giving our burdens to God and lightening our spiritual load.

I never intended this blog to be a poetry blog, and I’m sure it will never exclusively be poetry, but I seem to be drawn to this medium lately. The other day this poem came to me about my own journey to forgiveness.

Learning to Forgive

I held it inside
The anger, the bitterness
I hated you
I blamed you for everything
For every tear and every dark cloud
Because of what you did
But you didn’t care
You didn’t even know
I only hurt me more

He let it all out
The anger, the wrath
It poured out with His blood
He loved me
He forgave me for everything
For every tear and every sin
In spite of what I did
But I didn’t care
I didn’t even know
I only hurt Him more

Then He showed me the way
To let go of the anger, the bitterness
To forgive as He has forgiven
To love as He loved me
I don’t hurt anymore

When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. Luke 23:33-34 (NIV).

9/20/11 Update: I linked this poem at dVerse Poets Pub for the Open Link Night Week 10.

 

 

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Mercy Is Not for the Deserving, It’s for Us

Johnny Cash recorded a song, originally written by Nick Cave, called “The Mercy Seat.” It is a powerful song about a man on death row. There is no indication of what his crime is or what evidence there was against him. Throughout the song he repeatedly states that he is innocent, that he never told a lie, and that he is not afraid to die. We were listening to it in the car one time and my 15-year-old son commented that the last line was the most powerful line he had ever heard in a song. I’ve posted a video with the song at the end of this post in case anyone wants to listen, or you can read all of the lyrics here. The last verse is: 

And the mercy seat is smoking
And I think my head is melting
And in a way that’s helpin’
to be done with all this twistin’ of the truth
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And any way I told the truth
But I’m afraid I told a lie.

I’ve always assumed what he told a lie about was his innocence or the fact that he hadn’t lied before. But it occurred to me recently that what he lied about is more likely that he was not afraid to die. He knows he’s done wrong (even if not this particular crime) and he knows only mercy and death will release him from the guilt and fear. He knows at this point only God can save him; only God will show him mercy.

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of his Testament is stowed
A throne from which I’m told
All history does unfold.
It’s made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away.

The other day on Facebook one of my friends posted an article about Julie Schenecker, the woman in Florida who shot and killed her two teenage children. Her comment on the post was “I hope she rots in Hell.” This friend is a Christian woman, and so I was a bit shocked by this because Christ calls us to be merciful. I posted my own comment that I didn’t think we should be hoping that anyone rots in Hell, no matter what they did. While they were murdering Him, Jesus said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. Shouldn’t we do the same?

The response I got was that this woman killed her kids so my friend didn’t care what was going on in her mind or heart. She didn’t deserve a plea bargain (though any plea bargain in this case is likely to involve her spending a long time in prison) and didn’t deserve mercy. But do any of us deserve mercy? If deserving it was a prerequisite to mercy, well, it wouldn’t be mercy.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8.

The world does not show mercy, but seeks vengeance. As Christians we should be different from the world. We are called not only to show mercy, but to love mercy. We should not pick and choose who we think deserves mercy and who does not, for none truly deserves the mercy that God shows to us. Instead, we should offer mercy to the most undeserving. Although from a societal standpoint we most certainly must have laws and punish those who violate those laws, from an eternal standpoint we should hope and pray that all who are in violation of God’s law would repent and turn to their Savior for mercy and forgiveness so that they would not spend an eternity suffering for their transgressions. We should hope that, before they die, they would confess “I’m afraid I told a lie.”

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Wacky Advice – Forgiveness

It’s only mid-January, and already I’ve hit a day where I don’t know what to write about, but I committed to posting every day in 2011. So I thought I would check out the ideas at The Daily Post at WordPress.com. Today’s writing prompt was:

Describe the wackiest but most useful advice you’ve ever received.

The best advice I’ve ever received is to forgive others even if they don’t deserve to be forgiven. This idea seems so wacky and counter to all that society teaches us. After all, society says that when people do something wrong we should want to see them get what they deserve. The millions of men and women who are in prison or on probation in the U.S. attest to the fact that we are a nation that desires that justice be served, and justice requires punishment, not forgiveness.

From a societal standpoint, it does make sense that there should be consequences to breaking the law, especially laws designed to protect the citizens of the nation. But from an individual standpoint, the anger and bitterness that goes hand-in-hand with wanting those of have committed some offense against us to be punished is not a good thing. For the individual, forgiveness is the far better option. It’s a wacky idea, to forgive a drunk driver who killed your son or the robbers who murdered your parents or the arson who burned down your house and everything in it or the rapist who violated your very body and soul.

It’s a wacky idea; it’s advice that many refuse to take. Instead, they hang onto the anger and bitterness that eat at their mind and their soul. Partly, I think this is because of a fear that forgiving the transgressor means that you must admit that what they have done is not that bad. But forgiveness requires no such admission. In fact, forgiveness would not be necessary at all if the transgression were not a transgression at all, if it fell within the realm of acceptable behavior.

Rather, forgiveness is the act of giving up our right and desire for vengeance. The ability to forgive starts with the recognition that we ourselves need forgiveness for something we have done. Now most of us have not committed a terrible felony, but we have all done things that have hurt others in some way. And we have all, at some point, turned our backs on God and are in need of His forgiveness.

Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37. This sounds like pretty wacky advice, but it is the best advice I have ever received.

For many years, I refused to forgive. I held on to anger and bitterness towards someone who had hurt me. My unforgiveness didn’t hurt them in the least because they knew nothing about it. But it only made me more and more unhappy. Though I had a good life, a wonderful husband, a small child who loved me, a nice house, and a terrific family, I was miserable. I was gripped by depression and negative thoughts. But then God revealed to me that the core of my unhappiness was my unwillingness to forgive. It wasn’t easy to forgive and I needed God’s help to do it, but once I made the decision to forgive it was as though a black cloud was lifted from all around me. The world was bright again. I was able to enjoy the wonderful things in my life and my relationship with God began to blossom.

Did my decision to forgive mean that what had been done to me was okay? Certainly not! But it did set me free from a life imprisoned by anger and bitterness. The truth is that vengeance belongs to God and He will deal with the person who hurt me as He deems appropriate. And that truth has set me free.

Is there someone you are holding a grudge against? Take my advice and make the decision to forgive them. As Jesus said,

“I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. But when you are praying, first forgive anyone you are holding a grudge against, so that your Father in heaven will forgive your sins, too.” Mark 11:24-25.

God wants to set you free, He wants you to have an abundant life. But to enjoy that life, you must be willing to forgive and let God take care of justice.

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The Mercy of Our God Is Great

During this Christmas season, an idea for a post has been bouncing around in my head but it seemed something was missing. Today, reading a post of a fellow blogger, I came across a verse that seemed to tie the idea together. It is a great Old Testament verse showing the humility of King David and his trust in the mercy of God.

David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands.” 2 Samuel 24:14.

This Christmas season, I have been increasingly troubled by the prominence of Santa Claus and “giving” as the reason for Christmas. The Divine gift of salvation through the Christ child is downplayed and the jolly old elf is center stage wherever you go. But exactly what bothered me about hearing people say that the reason for Christmas is giving I couldn’t put my finger on. After all, giving is a good thing. And Santa certainly is known for giving gifts.

But with Santa there is a catch. Remember the Christmas song, “He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out whose naughty and nice.” As the story goes, only those on the nice list are given gifts by Santa. Those on the naughty list get a lump of coal. Although Santa is jolly, he isn’t very merciful.

Jesus, on the other hand, came for all mankind. He is merciful. Just like David, I would rather fall into the hands of God, for His mercy is great. I prefer the gift of grace and mercy that Christmas promises over all the earthly treasures promised by Santa if only I am good.

This morning listening to my iPod the song “Forgiven” by Skillet came on. It is a wonderful reminder of the mercy of our Lord. My favorite part of the song is the chorus:

Now I’m in our secret place
Alone in your embrace
Where all my wrongs have been erased
You have forgiven

All the promises and lies
All the times I compromise
All the times you were denied
You have forgiven

I’ve often heard people complain about the exclusivity of Christianity, because Christians believe that only those who believe in Jesus will go to heaven. But the opportunity to accept God’s gift of mercy and grace is open to all. No one is excluded from God’s love that is in Christ, our Savior.

People exclude each other from clubs and groups. Even Santa excludes those on the naughty list from receiving gifts. We demand payback and revenge, that others get what’s coming to them. We are not merciful to our fellow human beings.

But God’s invitation is open to all. God does not demand payback and revenge, He does not demand that we get what is coming to us for our actions. Instead, He paid the price for our sins Himself so that we would know His mercy.

Long before Jesus became God incarnate, the prophet Isaiah spoke of His mercy:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
      O Israel, the one who formed you says,
   “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
      I have called you by name; you are mine.
 When you go through deep waters,
      I will be with you.
   When you go through rivers of difficulty,
      you will not drown.
   When you walk through the fire of oppression,
      you will not be burned up;
      the flames will not consume you.
 For I am the Lord, your God,
      the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1-3.

He is the Savior not only of Israel, but of all who trust in Him. At Christmas, we remember that this mighty King came to a lowly manger for the purpose of living a sinless life and then giving His life as a ransom for you and me. Just as Israel had strayed from the Lord, we all have gone astray. We don’t deserve the Lord’s mercy. But at Christmas, His mercy gives birth to hope that leads to faith.

Whether you are on Santa’s nice or naughty list, the gift of God’s mercy is yours today and always. Won’t you, like David, choose to fall into the hands of a merciful God? His love awaits your choice to enter His embrace and be forgiven.

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